Do street lights help keep criminals away?

March 18, 2009 7:52:56 AM PDT
That question is at the heart of a debate in one part of the Triangle.Some people think street lights make neighborhoods safer, but other residents are not convinced and actually had street lights removed from their neighborhood.

Resident Ned Kennington says his neighborhood has more than its fair share of streetlights.

He says according to several studies, none of which deter crime. But Kennington says only one light supports the theory.

"But only in the same way that any investment in an impoverished community such as improved landscaping, improved signage can increase pride and cohesion, even the authors of that review acknowledge there's no good evidence that the light casts because of streetlights reduces crime," Kennington said.

However, in northern Durham, people feel differently. Residents in a neighborhood plagued with a few break-ins say they need lights.

"My main concern was my safety and I felt like I need to do what I need to do to be safe," resident Shirley Lennon said. "I know there are those who say street lights don't necessarily combat crime and all, but I wonder how many of those have actually had those homes broken into and how many have actually been attacked?"

Kennington says his neighbors all over the Bull City do deserve to feel safe, but they should have a choice between lights after dark or other safety measures.

"The police department is forcing these streetlights on people who don't want them, the city should implement a procedure where herby residents can choose if they want street lights or not," he said.

Nearly 500 streetlight requests citywide are on hold while the city reviews its policy amid protests from residents who feel they don't have a say.

The Durham Police Department sent out a memo last month recommending more community input before lights are installed and an appeals process should neighbors disagree.

The city manager will review staff recommendations on Monday. .


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